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Understanding Birth Injury Cases

When complications arise during childbirth, it can be alarming for parents. Some of these complications are due to the negligence of doctors and other medical staff and can result in birth injuries for the mom and child.

Almost 28,000 infants are born with a birth injury every year. Many times these injuries are entirely avoidable. Understanding how these injuries develop and what legal steps you should take are essential if you or your child has suffered a birth injury.

What is a Birth Injury?

A birth-related medical is a type of injury that results from any damage or trauma either before, during, or immediately after an infant’s birth. The severity of a birth injury can range from mild to life-threatening. In mild cases, a birth injury can heal on its own, and the infant has few side effects. Other times, severe birth injuries can require long-term treatment throughout the child’s life.

Birth injuries are not brain defects. A brain injury is the result of an issue caused by medical negligence. On the other hand, a birth defect is caused by a genetic predisposition.

Common Birth Injuries and What Causes Them

The negligence of another can result in several types of birth injuries. Medical staff, hospitals, and doctors make mistakes that can be harmful to a child due to a few reasons, including inexperience, inattentiveness, or exhaustion. Also, in more difficult deliveries, the likelihood of an accident is higher.

There are many injuries that can occur due to medical malpractice. The most common birth injuries include:

Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disability that affects a child’s brain and causes motor deficiency. It typically develops from a traumatic brain injury before, during, or right after birth.

CP can occur when mistakes or negligence are made during the delivery process that can lead to traumatic brain damage. Some examples of cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice can include:

  • A baby’s heart rate is not adequately monitored

  • Improperly using forceps or a vacuum extractor to remove the baby

  • Prolonged or difficult labor

  • Failing to notice or address signs of fetal distress

  • Failing to detect or address a prolapsed umbilical cord

  • Not treating maternal infections

Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy: Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when there are insufficient oxygen and blood flow to the brain before or during birth. HIE can lead to moderate to severe cognitive defects in an infant.

Failing to respond to signs of fetal distress, not correctly monitoring the fetus, and not performing a cesarean section in time can all lead to HIE. If a child has HIE, they should be treated as soon as possible to reduce damages. However, signs and symptoms of HIE may not appear in a child until months or years later. Treatment is not an option when the injury has progressed to this point.

Kernicterus: Kernicterus, or jaundice-related brain damage, is almost always the result of medical malpractice, meaning it is nearly always preventable. When an infant’s skin and tissues begin to yellow, kernicterus can occur. If this goes untreated, bilirubin levels can rise too high in the blood, which can result in severe brain damage. Doctors are not always urgent when treating jaundice because in some cases, it can go away without treatment. This leads to high bilirubin levels going untreated.

Brachial Plexus Palsy (Erb’s Palsy): Brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy is a medical condition that affects the nerves in the infant’s neck and shoulder. It can occur during a difficult delivery in which the baby’s shoulder gets stuck during childbirth and exerted force is used to pull the baby out of the birth canal. In mild cases of Erb’s palsy, normal range of motion returns after a few months, but in more severe cases, the damage can be permanent.

Fractures or Bruises: Bruises and bone fractures can appear on a baby after their birth due to the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. In these types of injuries, the damage can be temporary or permanent depending on how much force was used.

Additionally, birth injuries can affect the mother as well. Common injuries that affect mothers who recently gave birth include hemorrhaging or placental abruption.

What to Do if You or Your Child Has a Birth Injury

Depending on the birth injury, there are several ways that they can be treated. A healthcare provider will be able to inform you of which option will be the best treatment. The following are some of the options parents of children with birth injuries might have for treatment:

  • Surgery

  • Medication

  • Physical therapy

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

  • Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia

  • Occupational therapy

These injuries can result in long-term effects that require consistent medical care for the baby’s whole life. Treatment is often costly, time-consuming, and can last for several years in many cases. The problem is that almost 50% of birth injuries are avoidable.

The Villari Firm Can Help

The medical staff, hospital, or doctor can be held liable for birth injuries due to medical negligence. If you or your child suffered an injury that occurred during the birthing process and you want to file a claim, The Villari Firm is here for you. We will handle your case so you can focus on healing from this traumatic experience.

Our Philadelphia birth injury lawyer, Heidi G. Villari, has experience on both sides of medical malpractice lawsuits, giving her what it takes to fight for you and your family’s rights.

Call The Villari Firm today if you or your child is the victim of a birth injury at (215) 372-8889.